10 reasons why running a Marathon is like running a Startup in Lagos,Nigeria

So, I have a thing for running in long distance races.

Every Year in February, over 1000 people from different countries take to the streets of Lagos Nigeria to embark on a 42km long marathon challenge. I ran this marathon in 2017 and decided to try in again this year, once my baby was older.

It is not a race for the faint-hearted, between the unpredictable sun and the heartbreak that ensues on third mainland bridge, the course is demanding and often unforgiving.

Below are the 10 similarities with startup and founding CEOs that I identified throughout my run. If you have any other example, please share by leaving a comment below.

1) You need realistic goals

If you are a founding CEO of a startup, you should set realistic goals -(revenues, customers, product) and watch your growth rate. For a postpartum 2nd time marathoner, with stamina and endurance just building up, the only goal I made is 21km -Half marathon, Feb 8th, 2020 and that I will finish no matter what. Many people say they’ll run one someday, I say pick a date and commit. Set that goal today and Memorize it.

2) The beginning is usually fun

Starting your own company,is fun ? You get to brainstorm on domain name, design your logo, brand colors , attend startup events, strategize about the business model — no problem. The start of the race (for me, the first 17km) had the same feeling, it was exciting lining up, the cameras, the fun crowd on ikorodu road shouting “ you can do it, the prize is $50,000” I kept a good pace and had no issues. Then things started to change, ankle pains, upper back ache, dehydration. I smiled as I thought how Nigerian startups shared this same feeling.

3) your environment matters — It’s always easier with good support — Mentorship, Teamwork and Strategic Partnerships

For most startups, it’s your co-founder — maybe for others it’s your advisory board, or business coach. Either way, having support from someone makes the journey more enjoyable. That’s what I loved best about the Warri guy cheering and gisting with me all throughout the run and my best friend and Sister that was also pacing me in front. I always picked up the pace as I looked at them.

Mentorship, networking and partnership are vital to a startup’s survival. Find a guru who has traveled the race you desire to run with your company and seek external counsel. Be willing to invest in yourself and your business to learn from those who have traveled before you. I believe that mentorship is to founders what Pacers and Old sneakers are to a runner: They can take you the distance and save you some pain.

4) Run your own race: Stay Disciplined

Running anything takes discipline and focus. If you don’t have discipline running a business, it will fail — it’s as simple as that. If you don’t have discipline when your team leaves you or when you cant see the finish line, same with preparing for and running your marathon, you risk injury, failure to complete and wasting months of training. It’s not easy to set out to run a marathon or to start and run a business from scratch: for both,

5) Your research, training and preparation will make an impact

There’s nothing like doing market research before entering an industry to understand how you’re going to compete, and the same goes for a marathon. I asked Sam Chidoka the best route, googled the water stations point. Do your homework. All the prep work you do before will have a huge impact on your results.

6) What can go wrong will go wrong — Murphy’s Law

I usually have knee issues during my weekly runs, and I know how to manage it easily. The funny thing at 17km it was my upper back and ankle that started tightening up. All the things I had no idea would cause me discomfort. Startups are the same way — stuff happens. Things you don’t expect to go wrong will, government policy, Port congestion, Logistics, Rain and it’s how you deal with them that decides if you win or loose.

7) You need to have fun

Startups are awesome because you can have fun even when times are tough — because sometimes you just need to smile. Marathons are no different. At mile 22km I came up to an aid station in pain and sore, I smiled to the bottled water guy next to me and said “Wow, this is pretty hard?” smiling. cause I thought it was a funny thing to say. He looked at me confused and answer “of course it is.” — either way, I laughed. Sometimes when things are tough, you just need to laugh and have some fun — just keep pushing forward and enjoy the journey.

8) You’re crazy just to think you can do it.

Only 1/10th of a percent of the population will run a marathon. Why? Because it’s freakin’ hard! Mentally and physically. Some that try, don’t finish, and many that do, complete with injury. Startups are no different. The failure rate is high, the odds are against you — but still we do them. We must be a little bit crazy, right? I think so ;-).

9) Running out of funding (water) is very bad!

Either you stop at water stations along the way, or you make sure you stock water into your running pouch as needed. A typical marathoner burns over 3000 calories during the run, and much like a startup you need to stock up on resources.Typically, this is funding and or clients. Be sure to plan for both, if you run out, you’ll fail.

10) It’s a mental game: its takes Tenacity, Determination and Will Power

The Emotional Roller coaster in running a startup and running a marathon is no different. At the beginning you’ll feel great, then things start to hurt, and eventually its unpleasant, with moments of traction (it gets better for while). You find a rhythm, only to slow down when it just hurts too much (but you don’t stop!). That’s how startups feel sometimes — it’s mostly mental, a competition against your thoughts. Were all capable of way more than we give ourselves credit for.

NB: If you have any other example, please do share in the comment section below.

Investment Banker passionate about amplifying the narrative on agribusiness and access to funding opportunities.